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Featured DVD Review: Citizen Gangster

August 27th, 2012

Citizen Gangster - Buy from Amazon

Citizen Gangster is a Canadian film based on the real life gangster, Edwin Boyd. It earned mixed reviews from critics, but absolutely crashed and burned at the box office. Is it a better movie than its box office would indicate? It would pretty much have to be. But is it a better movie that the critics gave it credit?

The Show

Scott Speedman stars as Edwin Boyd, a World War II veteran, who now works driving a bus. He's married to Doreen and has two kids, Billy and Carolyn (Cynthia Galant). He has a very average life, which is the problem. He was in the war and in the band during the war and now his life is boring to him. Also, he's not exactly rolling in the money. Even buying his wife a birthday gift is a strain.

One day on his route, Edwin has to help a wounded soldier on and off the bus and seeing a fellow veteran in a wheelchair makes him realize how short life is and how he can't spend another minute doing a job he can't stand. So he quits. Right there. He doesn't even finish his route. He's always had his eye on an acting studio that was on his route, but he doesn't have the $45 for acting lessons, so that dream's dead. While dealing with his depression, his father comes over with food for their kids. His wife answers the door, but he overhears his father's less than flattering words and decides he really needs to do something to be able to provide for his family.

Edwin's plan is to apply a little makeup to his face and rob a bank. Amazingly, his plan actually works. In fact, it works so well that he keeps it up and becomes more daring with each heist. The mayor even brings in a special detective, David Rhys, to catch him. At first, Edwin tells Doreen that he got the new-found money from an acting job. He can only keep his secret from her for so long and he can only keep up his lucky streak for so long.

He gets sent to prison, but his defiant attitude makes his a bit of a hero. (The newspapers help by emphasizing his more charismatic side when writing stories about him.) While in prison, Edwin meets Lenny "Tough" Jackson and Willie "The Clown" Jackson, no relation. Lenny was also in the war, but lost his foot, while working on the rails after coming home. The two also robbed banks and were working on escaping before Edwin was sent to prison. They see him handle himself in a fight, and decide to invite him on their breakout. After they get out, the three of them team up with Val Kozak, the getaway driver for the prison break. They are immediately dubbed "The Boyd Gang", which annoys Lenny, because he was a bank robber before he met Edwin. However, Edwin calms him down by suggesting they form a gang and start robbing banks together.

That's about as far as we should go before reaching unacceptable spoilers. For the most part, Citizen Gangster is a very strong look at the draw of celebrity and how not only do people want to rise above their average lives, but how people want to lift someone to celebrity status to live vicariously through them. It also looks at the toll Edwin has to pay, as his fame as a bank robber destroys his family. The acting is very good in the movie. I'm not surprised it picked up three Genie Awards nominations for acting (Scott Speedman, Kevin Durand, and Charlotte Sullivan). It also looks great and I'm not surprised its other two nods were for Art Direction/Production Design and Visual Effects.

On the other hand, the film has pacing issues and the family drama works better than the gangster bits. When Citizen Gangster goes full gangster, it becomes too easy to compare it to bigger budget and better gangster movies. This flaw prevents it from being a great movie, but it is still a good movie.

The Extras

The only extra on the DVD is an interview featurette, but is has a running time of over 25 minutes, so it is a meaty extra. Considering its box office run, I was half expecting the DVD would have no extras.

The Verdict

If you are a fan of period piece gangster movies, then Citizen Gangster is certainly worth checking out. The DVD has better extras than expected and at just $13, it is worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, Citizen Gangster